HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hundreds of trick-or-treaters arrived at the Towns County Courthouse on Halloween evening to join in the fun-filled celebration. Candy booths sponsored by local businesses and government agencies lined the courthouse porch as children of all ages wrapped their way around the building, collecting sweets.
This year’s event featured a “haunted jail” attraction at the Old Rock Jail Museum, and the line to tour the 1939 historic site stretched beneath the maple tree on the courthouse grounds. Towns County Historical Society accomplished a spooktacular feat by supplying themed props, adding startling strobe and sound effects, and casting a set of skilled actors to play the part of tour guides, inmates, and other creepy characters.
Towns County Historical Society President Sandra Green estimated that over a hundred visitors toured the spooky site on Halloween night.
Halloween in Hiawassee included a street performance by North Georgia Dance Studio, a “Thriller” flash mob, and a children’s costume contest. The first place winner in the birth-to-age-two category was awarded to Kylyn Keyes. Romina Solorio was chosen for first prize in the 3-to-7 year range, and Anna Hamby was judged the winner in the 8-and-older category.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Macedonia Baptist Church, a landmark sitting high on a hill along Highway 76, east of Hiawassee city limits, has a deep history that is unbeknownst to many. The story of the chapel was the focus of discussion at the Towns County Historical Society meeting on Oct. 8, 2018. The informative program was presented by Macedonia Baptist Church Deacon Roger Dyer, and lifelong member Daren “Bear” Osborn.
The room was filled to near capacity with church members and county residents, including Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw and former Commissioner Bill Kendall, both instrumental in preserving the beloved history of Towns County.
Founded as Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in 1839, with the land deeded by Major Josiah Carter, the first of four eventual structures was built behind where the current church now stands. The Hiwassee River rushed along the chapel, and it was said that when the water level in Lake Chatuge sinks low, the steps leading from the original church can still be found. The river witnessed many baptisms throughout the following years, although the initial converts consisted of 11 members. Reverend Adam Corn, an Asheville, NC, transplant, born in 1782, is thought to have been Macedonia’s first preacher, initially serving as a missionary to Native Americans upon local arrival.
Major Carter was a delegate at the founding Southern Baptist Convention in Augusta, GA, in 1845, along with other area preachers. The Hiawassee Baptist Association was organized in 1849, and included Macedonia Baptist beside 23 sister churches from Clay and Cherokee County, NC, and Union and Rabun County, GA.
Carter, along with 27 of Macedonia Baptist Church’s first members, lies at rest in Carter Cemetery, tucked behind what is now Towns County Schools.
Macedonia was once known as Shady Grove, GA, and the land was a part of Union County until Towns County was established in 1856. The church was said to have housed soldiers during the Civil War era, although official records were stored in the Union County Courthouse which was later destroyed by fire in 1899.
In 1932, “God’s Acre Plan” was established by Reverend Frank Lloyd. Volunteer labor was used to prepare the land to plant, cultivate, and harvest crops. The farming endeavor served as revenue for Macedonia Baptist Church for years to come.
The second church was constructed in 1942, the result of the addition of Lake Chatuge which caused a need to move Macedonia Baptist to higher ground. The congregation was urged to pray for God’s guidance, and the original chapel was deconstructed, relocated, and reassembled upon an elevated mound. The first homecoming was held in 1945, and it continues to be honored annually on May 15.
In 1957, the congregation desired to build a more modern structure. The government supplied timber from the High Shoals area, and $802 in revenue from “God’s Acre Plan” set the project into motion. The church was built by the hands of church members, with dedication taking place on April 27, 1958. The building remains standing, adjacent to the current church which was constructed in 1995. Reverend Harold Ledford served Macedonia Baptist Church for 30 years until his death on Feb. 11, 2017. Reverend Ed Jump is serving as Macedonia’s transitional pastor at the time of publication.
Numerous historical photographs were displayed on a projector screen throughout the presentation as Dyer and Osborn offered detailed narrative, and DVDs of the monthly meetings in their entirety are available for a nominal fee through the Towns County Historical Society. Historical Society Secretary Betty Phillips opened the presentation by acknowledging the dedicated efforts of David and Myrtle Sokol in preserving the meetings through videography.
Towns County Historical Society meets at 5:30 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the former Recreation Center at 900 north Main St. in Hiawassee.
Of note, the Old Rock Jail Museum will close between the months of November and April. Appointments to tour the historical site during the off-season can be arranged through the Towns County Historical Society.
Feature Photo Credit: Macedonia Baptist Church
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales announced that Halloween on Hiawassee Square may be relocated to the Towns County Courthouse grounds in order to feature a new addition to the well-loved annual event: A haunted house attraction at the historic Old Rock Jail.
Ordiales revealed that the City of Hiawassee is collaborating with Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw and Towns County Historical Society President Sandra Green on the notion. The festivities are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 31.
Traditionally, the event has taken place on town square. Hiawassee City Council, along with Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith, voiced agreement with the slight shift in venue due in part to parking issues. The relocation will free the parking spaces surrounding the square that were dedicated to candy booths in years’ past, potentially reducing the swarm of trick-or-treaters trekking across Main Street from business parking lots.
While the plans for the haunted house and venue change were not firmly solidified by Mayor Ordiales as of Monday, Sept. 24, Commissioner Bradshaw stated no objection to to the plans.
The Old Rock Jail is located adjacent to the Towns County Courthouse, with renovation to the 1936 stone jail recently completed through the efforts of the Towns County Historical Society. The two-story site serves as a museum, featuring artifacts and photographs, and is open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. or by appointment.
Scarecrows, created by area businesses, are set to begin “invading” Hiawassee Town Square on Oct.1, staked thoughout the month.
A list of autumn activites in the Hiawassee area is available from FetchYourNews.com
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Senior Center took a tour of the county’s Old Rock Jail Museum on the afternoon of Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018.
Historian Jerry Taylor led the group through the recently renovated site, sharing stories from days gone by.
Once the group had viewed the downstairs portion, which once served as the former sheriffs’ living quarters, many ventured to the upper-level to take a peek at what life was like behind bars.
Historical Society member David Sokol told the tale of a friend, Dires Farmer, who visited her incarcerated boyfriend at the jail in 1959, stealing kisses through the iron bars. This, in turn, encouraged reenactments from the lively seniors.
Louise Card, 94, was among the ladies to receive a peck. “I moved here from Florida 40 years ago,” Card told FYN, “I would have been here 40 years earlier if I’d known these mountains were here. I’ve been married five times, had seven different last names, and I have six great-great grandchildren with another on the way, due in February…And yesterday, I was jitterbugging at the senior center.”
Towns County Senior Center Program-Wellness Coordinator Gail Bradley-Parker chauffeured and chaperoned the cheerful crowd.
TATE CITY, Ga. – Tate City, a tiny town with a population of 32, was the topic of discussion at the Towns County Historical Society’s monthly meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2018. Historical Society President Sanda Green announced that it was the largest turnout to date, with 110 names penned on a sign-in sheet.
Ralph Nichols presented his memories of the quaint town, which sits nestled deep within the northeastern forest of Towns County, Georgia, bordering the North Carolina state line.
Mr. Nichols’s father grew up in Tate City, as did the generations that came before him, and Nichols had a vivid recollection of days spent in the speck of a city. Nichols grandparents, James and Mary Rogers Nichols, married in 1893, and his grandfather farmed and raised livestock in the valley to provide for his family. Nichols’s grandmother was said to be part-Cherokee, and served as a mountain midwife and medicine woman, traveling by mule over the rugged mountain ranges to assist patients in need of care.
Nichols shared a fascinating story of a time when he stepped on a rusty nail as a child, and a dire infection set in. According to Nichols, his grandmother directed family members to find a sassafras tree in the woods, and bring back the bark and roots to boil as a remedy. Once it had been boiled into a soggy mush, Nichols recalled that his grandmother placed the remnants between two pieces of white cloth, and tightly wrapped his infected foot up to heal.
“The next day, my foot was almost as white as that piece of paper right there,” Nichols said with a smile, pointing to a page of notes. Nichols shared his grandmother’s tried-and-true remedy for toothaches as well, involving parched baking soda. A book in which Mary Nichols wrote her recipes of ailment cures sadly disappeared shortly after her death, allegedly taken to the state of Virginia by Nichols’s aunt. “She had a record of all the babies she brought into the world, and all the people she doctored,” Nichols said.
Nichols told the attentive crowd that although versions of the story differ – with one claiming that Grandmother Mary walked to Gainesville, and another variation saying that she rode her trusted mule – that the medicine woman eventually traveled to Gainesville, Georgia, and caught a train to Atlanta in order to become a licensed medical professional. Nichols said that during the winter months, his grandmother would, at times, have to be chipped from her riding stir-ups by the towns people, which had frozen her boots to the mule gear after crossing through icy creeks.
Nichols shared memories of loggers moving into Tate City during the yesteryears, and buying land for a mere two dollars per acre, in order to acquire the virgin timber. Miners arrived as well, in search of rubies. Nichols said that in the early days, livestock roamed free, with the owners of cattle, hogs, and sheep marking the ears of the animals with different symbols to identify their owners. It was said that a record of the livestock, and their identifying marks, was kept on file at the Towns County Courthouse.
Nichols reminisced about walking to his grandparent’s home in Tate City with his brother, Willard, from their home near Shooting Creek, NC, as young boys. “It was just the two of us, a dog, and a .22 rifle,” Nichols said, explaining that his family had no way of knowing if the boys had safely arrived each time they set off on foot to travel an estimated ten miles over the vast mountain range.
At the conclusion of Nichols’s presentation, residents from Tate City who attended the meeting were acknowledged, adding additional facts about their beloved town. One resident said that Tate City was the last location to receive electricty in the state of Georgia, in the early 1970s, and boasts the smallest voting district statewide, with only 17 registered voters.
Tate City is located 32 miles from Hiawassee, or 16 miles as the crow flies, over Charlie’s Creek. By road, visitors enjoy a scenic route through the Southern Nantahala Wilderness, alongside the Tallulah River.
Feature Photo: Tate City “Mall”
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Historical Society honored local military veterans on Saturday, July 14, during an annual heritage ceremony which began in 2014, founded by Historical Society Secretary Betty Phillips.
Phillips – the daughter of a veteran, and the widow of a World War 2 United States Army Staff Sergeant – recalled a conversation with her late husband before the program began. “Richie knew how much I loved history, and one day he made a point of reminding me of how different our history would be without our veterans. He said, ‘Betty, would you have the freedom to preserve history without the veterans?’ His words inspired me,” Phillips said with a smile.
The room in the former recreation center on Main Street, which now serves as a meeting hall for the historical society, quickly filled with veterans and supporters on Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m. Historical Society President Sandra Green opened the ceremony, acknowledging the dedicated effort Phillips applied to the project. The Pledge of Allegiance was followed by the National Anthem, sung by Karli Cheeks, and an invocation was offered by Doug Nicholson.
“I am truly blessed and honored to be standing up here because I don’t feel worthy of it, necessarily, because we owe it to those that have served,” Phillips emoted, “Either they were drafted, or they were willing to go and volunteer. We would not have a society like we have today if they had not sacrificed. Now, some people paid the ultimate price, and in Towns County, we have one of the nicest veterans’ parks that you can find anywhere. It’s in a beautiful location. It overlooks Lake Chatuge and the mountains, and most of all, the names of the veterans go on that wall. The other day, I started counting the names. There are over 1300 names on that wall. Now, the ones who paid the ultimate price, they have their own monument, their picture and their plaque.” Phillips noted that in World War 1, there were eight veterans who sacrified their lives for the sake of American freedom, three of which were Phillips’ relatives. During World War 2, thirteen service members paid the ultimate price. The veterans’ memorial is located in front of Towns County School on Highway 76 East.
The keynote speakers were World War 2 veterans James Richard Lewis, 96, and Fronz Goring, 97.
Lewis, reminised on his childhood, and his love for aeronatics; an appreciation which led to serving as a naval mechanic during the second World War. Lewis reenlisted in 1950, and served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. Lewis listed serving under four Commanders-in-Chiefs: Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, and Nixon. “If the current Commander-in-Chief asked me to join the fight, I’d carry it to the gates of hell for him,” Lewis asserted.
Towns County’s oldest veteran, Goring, recalled his military service, and spoke lovingly of his late wife, Mason L. Goring, also a veteran, whose name is enscribed on the local veterans’ memorial wall. The couple met Thanksgiving Day of 1945, married Jan. 13, 1945, and spent 61 years together. “Right now, I’m stationed at Brasstown Manor Resort,” Goring joked.
A decorated table filled with photographs of local veterans lined a wall, and a touching video clip of an interview of local World War 2 veteran Bud Johnson, 95, who attended Saturday’s ceremony, at the late Governor Zell Miller’s recent memorial service in Young Harris, was shown on a projection screen.
Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw and Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales attended the program, offering words of gratitude to the veterans and their families.
Members of Friendship Baptist Church presented certificates of recognition to veterans of different eras, and ensured that the crowd received a Chick-Fil-A sandwich, chips, cookies, and a soft drink at the conclusion of the program.
Towns County Historical Society expressed appreciation to its members, and to Alpha Delta Kappa Sorority, for helping to make the hertiage program possible.
Next year’s ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, July 13, 2019.
(Feature Photo: Towns County’s oldest veteran, Fronz Goring, age 97)
HIAWASEE, Ga. – A long-awaited, highly anticipated ceremony took place on the grounds of the Towns County Courthouse Saturday, May 20, 2018, memorializing the completion of renovation of the Old Rock Jail. The historic site sits just east of the county courthouse, adjacent to the Towns County Library. Deeded to the Towns County Historical Society Oct. 20, 2016, by former Towns County Commissioner Bill Kendall, efforts to transform the site into a museum proved to be a success.
The Old Rock Jail served as the county jail from 1936 until the mid-1970s, prior to the construction of an updated detention center. The jail was renovated in 1980, and functioned as Hiawassee City Hall, as well as a voting precinct, before abandonment in favor of a modern facility. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. The Towns County Historical Society gained possession of the site Jan. 27, 2017.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony began with words of welcome from Towns County Historian and Master of Ceremonies Jerry Taylor. An invocation was offered by Towns County Historical Society Member Doug Nicholson, followed by the Pledge of Alligence lead by Cub Scouts Pack 407, with the National Anthem sung by Karli Cheeks. Towns County Historical Society officers were announced, with President Sandra Green, Vice President Nancy Cody, Secretary Betty Phillips, Treasurer Frances Shook, and Membership Secretary Mary Ann McCall Miller in attendance.
Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, former Towns County Commissioner Bill Kendall, and Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales spoke at the ceremony, expressing appreciation to the historical society for their dedicated work toward the project. Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton attended the event.
Jay “Junior” Chastain and Trey Chastain, the son and grandson of former Sheriff Jay Chastain were recognized. Sheriff Chastain lost his life in the line of duty in 1974, and Chastain was the the last sheriff to live in the Old Rock Jail.
Towns County Historical Society Deputy Historian Jason Edwards presented the history of the Old Rock Jail to the sizable crowd.
Towns County Chamber of Commerce President Candace Lee orchestrated the ribbon-cutting.
The museum features artifacts from Towns County’s past, with some items donated and others on loan. Photographs from days gone by grace the vine-roped stone of the interior, with the downstairs living quarters revived to its former glory. The upper-level of the museum contains the cells where inmates were once housed, as well as the former sheriffs’ office, and the area is available for public viewing.
Towns County Historical Society meets on the second Monday of each month, at 5:30 p.m. at the former Senior Center, located at 900 North Main St. in Hiawassee.
Information on becoming a member of the society can be found at TownsCountyHistory.org.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The Towns County Historical Society presented the city of Hiawassee with an artifact Monday, March 26, at the council’s monthly work session: the original 1929 tax digest for the city.
“This is very appropriate since you were just talking about your budget,” Towns County Historian Sandra Green told Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales. “This is the 1929 tax digest for the city of Hiawassee. This is the original and we’re presenting it to the city. You’ll love some of these numbers. The Bank of Hiawassee, their city tax was $21.70, but they only paid $20.30, and we aren’t sure why.”
The crowd erupted in laughter.
Penciled beside the typewritten taxes due from the Bank of Hiawassee, the amount paid is scribbled.
The aged list contains the names of citizens and businesses that operated in Hiawassee nearly nine decades ago.
The tax calculations were based on 40 cents per $100 worth of property.
The total amount of taxed property amounted to $46,977, with $187.60 due to Hiawassee.
The highest amount in taxes owed by a citizen was $16.40.
Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales expressed appreciation to the Towns County Historical Society for the framed document.
The Towns County Historical Society reminded that restoration of the Old Rock Jail will soon be completed with the museum scheduled to open May 19.